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CAMEOS 



BY 



ELLA WHEELER WILCOX 




W. B. CONKEY COMPANY 

CHICAGO 
1914 



T 



Copyright, 1914 

BY 
ELLA WHEELER WILCOX 



ACT -7 1914 

©CI.A380742 



fci 



CAMEOS 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



POEMS OP PASSION 
POEMS OP PLEASURE 
POEMS OP POWER 
POEMS OF CHEER 
POEMS OP SENTIMENT 
POEMS OP PROGRESS 
POEMS OP EXPERIENCE 
THE KINGDOM OF LOVE 
MAURINE 
THREE WOMEN 
YESTERDAYS 
THE ENGLISHMAN 

In the Press 

POEMS OF PROBLEMS 



CONTENTS 

I 

PAGE 
THE GARDEN OF FORGOTTEN THINGS - - iy 9 

II 
VOICES 17 

III 

THE APPARITION - - - - - 27 

IV 
TWO AT THE RESTAURANT - - - 37 

V 

THE DEPARTURE 45 

VI 

THE MENDICANT 55 



THE GARDEN OF FOR- 
GOTTEN THINGS 



THE GARDEN OF FOR- 
GOTTEN THINGS 

It was the hour when Day keeps 
tryst with Dusk that I found it. A 
single star glowed like a beacon above 
the rim of the earth; and in the still 
waters of a dreaming Cove, I saw the 
inverted reflection of midsummer trees. 
It was a subtle odour which lured me 
into the tangled paths of memory; an 
elusive fragrance, blowing up from the 
Meadows of The-Used-To-Be; and it 
led me on, and on, until the House of 
Reality was lost to sight. 
9 



10 CAMEOS 

I found myself wandering in strange 
places, through dim ways, toward a 
nameless, magnetic goal. 

I do not know why I pressed forward ; 
the House of Reality was very beauti- 
ful and I had long dwelt there, with 
Content guarding my portal, and Love 
abiding within. 

But when an old perfume calls, 
memory obeys. 

Having set forth, I proceeded, pos- 
sessed equally by curiosity and fear; 
for the road grew lonelier, and an in- 
definable sadness pervaded the atmos- 
phere. 

Presently I came to a bridge, which 
bore evidences of having been an en- 
chanting structure; but now it was 
broken and decayed, and under it lay 



FORGOTTEN THINGS 11 

the arid bed of a vanished stream. 
Hard by, a creaking sign-board swung 
from a leaning mile-post; and by the 
pale light of the increasing stars, I read 
these half-effaced words, "The Bridge 
of Dreams, spanning the River of 
Youth." 

Across the bridge I hurried; and 
just on the other side I saw it — the 
Garden of Forgotten Things. 

The entrance was choked by weeds; 
for no foot had trodden there in many 
a year; but, moved with desperate 
courage and a desire to finish this un- 
premeditated journey, I forged forward. 

A phosphorus light shed a peculiar 
and awesome radiance over the tangled 
grasses at my feet. 

I leaned low, and gazed at the spot 



12 CAMEOS 

whereon I stood. It was a partially 
buried headstone, bearing the name of 
a friend loved and lost in my first 
youth. 

Once that stone stood erect, amidst 
carefully tended flowers, and the path 
leading to it had been kept smooth by 
the feet of faithful friendship. 

But that was long and long ago, and 
for decades of time the neglected stone 
had been pressing its sorrowful face 
against the bosom of earth, lonely and 
forgotten by the world. 

r A weird shape flitted beside me as I 
passed on. So absorbed was I with 
suddenly awakened recollections of my 
lost friend, that I paid little heed to the 
shape; but it pressed closer, and at last 
I turned, to see the face of an early 



FORGOTTEN THINGS 13 

Passion, once beautiful with vivid life, 
but now an empty mask, from which all 
expression had fled. 

"Do not follow me," I cried, acceler- 
ating my steps. "There is nothing — 
nothing for us to say." 

"There is nothing," answered the 
shape, as it departed into the shadows 
from whence it came. 

The way seemed newly desolate, and 
a wide-winged bird wheeled above 
my head, giving utterance to strange 
cries. 

As he cried, that subtle, haunting 
odour blew up again from the Meadows 
of The-Used-To-Be; and old raptures, 
old sorrows, vanished friendships, and 
ephemeral loves, lost ideals and outlived 
pleasures, trooped behind me, a shadowy 



14 CAMEOS 

horde, starred with pallid faces of the 
dead. 

The Garden of Forgotten Things, 
filled with this nebulous host of pres- 
ences, became insupportable. 

I turned, affrighted, and fled back: 
back to the House of Reality, past the 
keeper of the portal, whose face had 
grown troubled over my absence, I 
sped, straight into the arms of Abiding 
Love. 



VOICES 



II 

VOICES 

Voices affect me like music, like per- 
fumes, like scenes in nature. 

I have heard the voice of a man or a 
woman who was not visible, and all the 
atmosphere changed as if a sudden wind 
had arisen, or as if an eclipse had taken 
place at noonday, or as if a "light that 
never was on land or sea " had risen in 
the skies at night. 

Once in the desert of the common- 
place I heard a voice, and instantly I 
was enveloped in beauty. Statues 
17 



18 CAMEOS 

gleamed from hidden niches, and foun- 
tains played, and there were culture 
and repose and charm over all my 
world. 

Voices are exact reflections of the 
mind and soul; or they are echoes from 
past incarnations. 

Not all soft voices are pleasant; not 
all loud voices are unpleasant. It 
depends upon the quality. 

There is a woman who is crowned 
with youth and classic beauty; she is 
like a marble goddess to see, and oft- 
times I have beheld her moving about 
exquisitely kept lawns under the shadow 
of great trees. 

She is a picture to please the eye; a 
picture — until she speaks. Always 
when her voice reaches my ears the 



VOICES 19 

same thing occurs; the beautiful lawns 
give place to ragged, unkempt farm- 
house yards; the great trees vanish, 
and I see only forlorn buildings, dilapi- 
dated stables, men in shirt-sleeves and 
" suspenders " coming home tired with 
toil; women, with calico aprons and 
prematurely faded faces, performing 
disagreeable duties. The utterly com- 
monplace and unromantic side of life 
is expressed by the voice of this 
beautiful woman. 

It is like a blow to my ear! 

Her own nature is devoid of romance. 
There is no sentiment in her soul. And 
so the voice tells the story of tempera- 
mental poverty, despite her appearance 
and surroundings. 

Another woman who is sweet and 



20 CAMEOS 

wholesome to look upon, and normal 
in every respect, speaks, and I grow 
dazed as under the influence of some 
strange narcotic. 

She may discuss weather or bonnets; 
she may speak of art and literature, or 
she may talk of current gossip; yet 
the same result invariably follows. 
There is a little blur over my brain, a 
peculiar haze, and the real things of 
life seem so far away, and I imagine 
incense curling up from censers in some 
dim room. Some time, in some past 
life, she has been a part of such con- 
ditions. 

Once I met a man of talents, a man 
of whom the world had great hopes, of 
whom it expected wonderful achieve- 
ments. But after I had heard him 



VOICES 21 

speak I ceased to believe in his future. 
His voice was light, as thin water run- 
ning over shallow places; it could not 
be a voice of the depths. 

I know a man whose voice will bring 
calm out of turmoil, peace out of dis- 
cord, and rest out of weariness. Men, 
women, children, animals, all feel the 
magnetism and charm of his modu- 
lated tones. Each sentence is a caress, 
however dignified the words may be. 

There are voices which rouse you to 
action, which stir you with ambition; 
and there are others which fill you with 
despondency. There are voices which 
irritate you like the buzzing of an insect 
or the grating of a file; and voices 
which hiss like serpents and snap like 
turtles. 



22 CAMEOS 

Sometimes from the rosebud mouth 
of youth proceeds the cracked voice of 
age; and from feminine lips, the deep 
bass of masculine tones. But most 
dreadful of all is the thin piping voice 
of femininity issuing from the bearded 
lips of man. 

That which we are, that which we 
have been in some former incarnation, 
speaks in our tones. 

That which we are, and the result of 
that which we have been, can be changed 
and modified by the cultivation of the 
voice. 

Were all the world to speak in a 
melodious and pleasing voice, many of 
the harsh and disagreeable qualities in 
human nature would disappear. 

What does your voice express? 



VOICES 23 

Listen, and analyze it, and then ask 
your best friend, if you are brave enough 
to hear the answer. 



THE APPARITION 



Ill 

THE APPARITION 

The Mother entered the boudoir and 
her daughter closed the door behind her. 

Then she seated herself, facing the 
Girl with a Dream in her eyes, and took 
her hand. 

" I want to talk with you this morn- 
ing," she began. " Will you listen ?" 

A faint shadow crossed the face of 
the Girl, and the Dream in her eyes 
fled, affrighted. 

But she answered with a single acqui- 
escing, and perhaps appealing, mono- 
syllable. " Yes," she said. 

27 



28 CAMEOS 

"It is about Paul," the Mother 
continued; " I think he comes here too 
often* 

" You are so young — too young to 
have men calling to see you. It is 
foolish to distract your mind from 
music and studies with the nonsense 
which men talk to girls." 

The Girl leaned forward, but her 
glance reached beyond her Mother's 
chair, and she seemed to listen to some 
sound other than her Mother's voice. 

" Pardon me, Mother," she said, "but 
I am sure someone knocked at the 
door." 

The Mother went to the door, opened 
it, and peered into the corridor. 

" There is no one in sight," she said, 
and resumed her seat. 



THE APPARITION 29 

" Paul is a fine fellow, I know/' she 
continued, " but he, too, is wasting time 
in calling on you so often. He should 
be thinking of his future, and of the 
work he is given to do in life, and he 
should be applying himself seriously 
to it." 

" But, Mother, he often talks to me 
of just these things; and he says he 
always goes away stirred with new and 
noble ambition after he has seen me. 
I am an encouragement to him," 

The Mother frowned. " That is an 
old platitude," she said. " Men have 
talked that way to women since the 
world began; it means nothing, my 
child. It is a waste of your time to 
listen to such things." 

Again the Girl leaned forward. 



30 CAMEOS 

" Mother, there is surely someone 
trying to enter the door." 

" There is no one, I tell you," re- 
peated the Mother impatiently, " and 
you must listen to me until I have 
finished. The time you sacrifice to 
Paul would make you proficient in 
French or on the piano; for you not 
only give him time when he calls, but 
you read his notes, and you dress for 
him, and you are growing idle and 
dreamy when he is not here. I really 
must insist that you ask Paul to remain 
away, and that you return to your old 
habits of study." 

The Girl touched her Mother's arm, 
and her eyes were dilated. 

" Someone came into the room just 



THE APPARITION 31 

then," she said. " Someone is behind 
you, Mother." 

The Mother turned with a start, but 
saw nothing. " You are trying to dis- 
tract me, but I shall finish what I came 
to say," and her voice grew stern. 
" Men from the cradle to the grave 
have always been in the habit of en- 
croaching on woman's time, without 
apology. They expect her to bestow 
sympathy, diversion, and amusement, 
and they never think they are obliged 
to give anything in return. You must 
learn to understand them at their real 
value, and to direct your life accord- 
ingly." 

"But Paul gives me his society in 
return for mine," the Girl replied, " and 



32 CAMEOS 

I enjoy him; he is interesting and 
attractive." 

The Mother's frown deepened; there 
was asperity in her tone. " That is 
mere sentimental nonsense. You are 
too young to know whether a man is 
interesting or attractive. You should 
not think of such things; you should 
be thinking only of your studies at this 
age. 

" Mother, there is — there is someone 
— something behind you." 

The Mother rose. " You need a 
specialist for nervous disorders," she 
said. " Your brain has become vision- 
ary. Your nerves are affected. I will see 
the doctor to-day about you. You must 
be in bed at nine o'clock hereafter and 
you must stop all this sentimental folly." 



THE APPARITION 33 

"Mother, turn quickly," the Girl 
cried, " and you will see what is behind 
you; a vague, shadowy form, but 
very, very beautiful; and, Mother, it is 
trying to whisper in your ear." 

And then the Mother turned, and lo ! 
there stood the Spirit of her Lost Youth, 
and she looked straight in its eyes. 
" Why, I had quite forgotten you," she 
said very gently, after a silence. 

" I thought so," replied the Phantom, 
" that is why I came. But I will not 
detain you. I only wanted to be re- 
membered." And with a smile at the 
young Girl, the Phantom waved its 
hand and was gone. 

And the Mother smiled, too, and 
went over and kissed her daughter, 
and said, " Well, one can be young but 



34 CAMEOS 

once, and Paul is a good boy after all." 
And she went out softly. 

And the Dream came back in the 
Girl's eyes. 



TWO AT THE RESTAURANT 



IV 

TWO AT THE RESTAURANT 

At neighbouring tables in the brilliant 
restaurant, filled with flowers, perfume, 
and beauty, sat two women, each with 
her escort. 

One woman was young in years, but 
her sharp angles, her lustreless eye, her 
ansemic skin, and aggressive manner, 
all marked her as one whose attenuated 
and colourless soul was incapable of 
youth. The other woman had reached 
her meridian, and turned her face 
toward the afternoon of life. 

She did not like the view; her eyes, 
37 



38 CAMEOS 

faded, yet still splendid, looked back- 
ward to the receding noon and morning 
hours; and always, wherever she might 
be, there the gaze of the multitude was 
drawn. She was like a magnificent 
hothouse rose, beautiful such a little 
while ago, and still exhaling fragrance, 
which no one can pass unmoved, even 
though its leaves are curled and its 
colour gone. 

The orchestra drowned the rattle of 
silver and china and the hum of voices 
in the surging billows of the " Blue 
Danube Waltz." The young woman 
with the colourless soul was unstirred. 
Her critical and unkind glance was 
fastened on the neighbouring table. 
She smiled sarcastically and remarked 
to her companion: "Isn't it queer 



TWO AT THE RESTAURANT 39 

some women cannot realize they are no 
longer young? The woman at the next 
table, for instance." 

The woman with the soul of a rose 
had flushed into sudden semblance of 
her lost youth with the first strains of 
the immortal waltz of Strauss. Her 
widely-separated eyes had deepened in 
colour; the blood had leaped from her 
heart into her cheek; the lines about 
the corners of her beautiful mouth, 
made by the cruel finger of time, dis- 
appeared in a half -smile full of volup- 
tuous reminiscences. She beat time to 
the music with one gloved hand, and 
unconsciously her graceful body swayed 
slightly from side to side. The eyes of 
her companion, a man younger than 
herself, rested tenderly upon her, but 



40 CAMEOS 

she was not thinking of him. Other 
scenes, other hours, other men had risen 
before her vision. " Isn't she absurd ?" 
asked the thin, sharp voice of the young 
woman with the colourless soul. 

But the man to whom she spoke did 
not answer aloud. He was a man of 
temperament — of experience and knowl- 
edge of human nature. Mutely he was 
saying to his companion: " Poor little 
weed that you are, how could you be ex- 
pected to understand a hothouse bloom? 
Never, though you exist for a century, 
will life bring to you one hour of such 
intense emotion as have made years of 
this woman's life. Never will those 
sneering lips know one such kiss as has 
fallen upon her mouth in showers. 
Never will your cold eyes look into the 



TWO AT THE RESTAURANT 41 

eyes of a man and read the answer to 
the riddle of the universe — great love 
given and received. Never will you 
know that wonderful hour of mutual 
conquest and subjugation. You are the 
arid sage-bush on the desert of life. 
She is the opulent rose — faded, yet still 
breathing forth a delicious fragrance. 
Even after her leaves fall utterly, she 
will be the rare vase containing them, 
and subtle incense will steal forth as 
long as the vase lasts. And you, in 
youth or age, will ever be the arid 
sage-bush on the desert." 

But aloud the man spoke only to call 
the waiter and pay his cheque ; and the 
two went out, leaving the woman with 
the soul of a rose still beating time to the 
rhythm of the " Blue Danube Waltz." 



THE DEPARTURE 



V 

THE DEPARTURE 

She had heard no echo of a footstep 
down the hall, no opening or closing of 
a door, no sound of a vehicle on the 
gravel carriage-way. 

Yet she became suddenly conscious 
that a departure had taken place. 

It was after she had risen from her 
perfumed bath, and, swathed in filmy, 
rose-colored draperies, passed between 
the mirrors which lined her boudoir on 
either side, that she paused, struck with 
the sudden sense of desolation. 

How could this thing have happened 
so silently, and with no warning ? 
45 



46 CAMEOS 

Why had no one told her that it was 
soon to occur ? Did others of her 
household know of the departure, and 
had she alone been kept in ignorance of 
the fact? 

The thought was intolerable. 

She swept across the spacious dress- 
ing-room, and knocked imperiously 
upon the door which led into the apart- 
ment of Love. 

" I will ask him," she said, " and he 
must tell me if he knew of the de- 
parture, and when it took place." 

But Love swung wide the portal, and 
met her with smiling eyes. 

" You have slept well," he said. "You 
are radiant as the dawn." And he kissed 
her full upon the mouth. 

" He does not know," she whispered 



THE DEPARTURE 47 

to her heart; "not yet. But he will 
know it soon, too soon." 

Still, the vastness of her desolation 
seemed lessened by Love's smile and 
kiss. 

While the maid arranged her beauti- 
ful hair, and selected the pretty frock 
from the bewildering array of delicate 
garments, she secretly watched the 
girl's face to see if any consequences 
of the departure could be surprised 
thereon* 

" Madame will choose the pink bows 
for her hair this morning ? They suit 
her fine colour so well." 

It was at once a question and a de- 
cision, as the light hands held the 
velvet knots against the shell-tinted 
cheeks. 



48 CAMEOS 

" Fanchette does not know," she said 
to her heart again. " But she will know 
soon ; all the world will know. It can- 
not be hidden." 

Her own knowledge of the departure 
bore more and more heavily upon her 
mind as the day passed. 

Friends came, with pleasant words 
and sweet flatteries. She drove in the 
afternoon, and met throngs who craned 
their necks to see her pass in her car- 
riage. At high tea she heard many com- 
pliments; and she dined with admiring 
friends, and spent a gay evening after- 
ward; but she always kept the thought 
of the departure uppermost in her con- 
sciousness, and always she was saying 
to herself : " They do not know yet, for 
they would not dare laugh and jest in 



THE DEPARTURE 49 

face of my despair if they knew; but 
by-and-by " 

It was a long day, and she was glad 
when at last she was again in her 
boudoir. 

Divested by deft hands of all her 
finery, her maid dismissed, she stood 
alone before the long triple mirrors 
and turned on a blaze of pitiless 
light. 

Yes, it was quite true; that which 
she had discovered in the early morning 
for the first time was painfully evident 
now. 

The perfect curve of her exquisite 
chin was broken; and between her 
brows the elusive line which had come 
and gone always like a passing shadow, 
indicating her changing moods, was 



50 CAMEOS 

clearly discernible now. It was per- 
manent. 

Youth, radiant, fearless, adorable 
first youth, had taken its departure. 

But while she stood with her face 
hidden in both hands, overwhelmed with 
the magnitude of her despair; there was 
a quick step, and a light knock on the 
door, and Love entered with out- 
stretched arms. 

" Why, my darling one, my beautiful 
one," he said, " what is the matter ? 
Has anyone hurt you or grieved you?" 
And he kissed her once, twice, thrice, 
and a score of times, on her hair, and 
brow, and cheeks, and throat, and 
mouth. 

Then she flung her arms about his 
neck and buried her face on his breast. 



THE DEPARTURE 51 

" Oh, it does not matter, it does not 
matter, after all !" she cried. And she 
laughed and sobbed all in one as she 
clung to him. 

But when he questioned her about the 
cause of her tears, and asked her why 
she wept, she answered only: 

" Just because." 

For though she knew the departure 
had taken place, she would not be the 
first to mention it to Love, so wise was 
she, remembering that Love is blind. 



THE MENDICANT 



VI 

THE MENDICANT 

For the first time in her life the Woman 
entered a room timidly. It was a 
spacious room, well filled with women 
brave in festive attire. 

The black and white uniforms of the 
hotel waiters gave the assemblage its 
only touch of masculinity. 

Women of wealth and social position 
were there, women of genius, women 
who had made their mark in some field 
of endeavour; a few young, many 
middle aged, and some old women. 

The Woman herself was old. She 
55 



56 CAMEOS 

had been conscious of it for almost a 
year; and now it came over her with 
new and unrelenting force, as she en- 
tered the room filled with others whose 
lives had been so unlike her own; whose 
ideals and pleasures had been so dif- 
ferent, and whose favour she had come 
to crave. 

The favour of human companionship. 

She had always been used to taking 
what she wanted, without an effort. 
All her life she had received much for 
little, something for nothing; and now 
she was craving a little, and ready to 
give any price for it. 

" I am surely very old, and very 
lonely," she said mentally, as she looked 
about her; " else how could I be seek- 
ing anything here ?" 



THE MENDICANT 57 

Yet as the friend who had brought 
her, a guest, to this brilliant assemblage, 
presented her to woman after woman, 
she looked in the face of each with a 
mute appeal. 

She had been out of the sanatorium 
but a few months ; the sanatorium where 
she had spent a long, long year, and 
where the consciousness was first forced 
upon her that her day of prowess was 
over. 

It had been a long day; and even 
after the twilight had fallen, and the 
evening approached, she still imagined 
it broad day; and there was no one 
brave enough to tell her that her glory 
had departed, and that her prime, her 
beauty, and her vogue with men, were 
things of a past generation. 



58 CAMEOS 

It was her mirror at the sanatorium 
that first spoke the brutal fact. 

And then, after she came out into 
her world again, the same fact looked 
from the eyes of every man she met. 

All men glanced at her indifferently, 
or showed her only the courtesies due 
to old age, while their attention was 
drawn elsewhere. Her presence had 
lost its compelling power. It awoke 
no interest, no admiration, no desire, 
nothing that meant life to her. 

From the time she could remember, 
men had made her world; they had 
fought for her favour; they had loved 
her, or told her so ; they had forgotten 
other women for her. 

And she had gone through life 
intoxicated with the sense of her own 



THE MENDICANT 59 

omnipotence; and, like a drunken man, 
she had believed herself happy. She 
had been too worldly wise, too cold, 
and too cautious, to lose her place 
in the world — a place won through a 
good man's name and fortune. 

But she cared only for this place as 
a stage whereon she might display her 
powers of conquest. 

Women were nothing, less than noth- 
ing to her. She always said that her sex 
seemed divided into two classes — stupid 
women, with only sense enough to be 
good; and weak women, foolish enough 
to be bad. 

She prided herself upon being a 
man's woman; and always when she 
entered a room, men fluttered about 
her like insects about a point of flame. 



60 CAMEOS 

Even after she passed her prime a 
romantic halo enveloped her, and ren- 
dered her interesting to certain types 
of young men. As, on a rainy day, they 
might seek an old chest and peruse 
yellow letters breathing forth strange 
perfumes, they sought her presence, 
which breathed of tragic experiences — 
of duels, of suicides, of a wife gone 
mad, of wise men grown fools through 
her power. So, long after men had 
ceased to care for her, she had taken 
their curiosity as an evidence of love, 
and flattered herself that she was still 
a dominating personality. 

The first blow came when a young 
man who sought her society, assiduously 
said to her, " You must have been a 
great beauty in your day." 



THE MENDICANT 61 

Then she knew her day was waning; 
was perhaps over. 

The young man was an author, and 
he was studying her as a type. But she 
had not known that. 

It was soon afterward that she fell 
very, very ill; and all through her 
sickness the words of the young man 
haunted her. Yes, she had been beau- 
tiful. And now it was all past. When 
she looked in her mirror again, she 
knew the terrible truth. She prayed 
to die — the first earnest prayer of her 
whole life; but Destiny was not ready 
to accord her such mercy. She, the 
merciless one, must live on, and on. 

The years seemed to stretch before 
her, barren and desolate as the sands of 



62 CAMEOS 

the desert to the lost traveller. Across 
the desert came a good Samaritan; one 
who had pity upon her; and so she was 
led out toward an oasis of human 
companionship. 

She looked about the room, and saw 
little bevies of women scattered here 
and there, drinking tea, chatting, laugh- 
ing, and all seemingly happy in the 
society of one another. 

She did not care for any of them. 
She did not care for their pleasures. 
It was all dull — dreary and dull. 

Yet to know these women — to count 
them as friends, to share such distrac- 
tions as they had to offer — was the only 
thing life had to give her now. 

She felt timid, old, an alien in their 



THE MENDICANT 63 

midst; a mendicant begging for un- 
palatable food rather than slowly starve 
to death. 

Oh, the bitter taste of Dead-Sea 
fruit! 









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